This paper uses panel data from the Building a New Life in Australia survey to examine the relationship between proficiency in English and labour market outcomes among humanitarian migrants. We show that having better general or speaking skills in English is associated with a higher propensity for participation in the labour force and success in getting a job. We also find that participating in an English training programme is strongly and positively associated with gaining better language skills. Among the channels leading to these outcomes, we find that self-esteem, self-efficacy and general health partially mediate the relationship between English proficiency and labour force participation. Self-efficacy, general health status and indicative serious mental illness also partially mediate the relationship between better English proficiency and the chance of getting a job.
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We thank the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) for providing us with access to the data. Information about the Building a New Life in Australia survey data can be found at www.aifs.gov.au/bnla . Zhiming Cheng acknowledges the support from the Scientia Programme (grant number: PS45957) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney). The findings and views reported in this paper, however, are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the DSS, AIFS or UNSW Sydney.
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